Tag Archives: Gale (crater)

Celebrate your curiosity – one year on

This week we mark the first anniversary of the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, in the Gale Crater on Mars.


Self-portrait – Curiosity on Mars

TV and video coverage of this landing had a huge international audience on the night. It was certainly one of the top scientific events of the year.

The video below gives a short review of Curiosity and its landing.

Curiosity Rover: One Year on Mars


Curiosity team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., will share remembrances about the dramatic landing night and the mission overall in an event that will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website from 10:45 a.m. to noon EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 6 (2:45 to 4 a.m. Wednesday Aug. 7  NZST).

Immediately following that program NASA TV will carry a live public event from NASA Headquarters in Washington. That event will feature NASA officials and crew members aboard the International Space Station as they observe the rover anniversary and discuss how its activities and other robotic projects are helping prepare for a human mission to Mars and an asteroid. Social media followers may submit questions on Twitter and Google+ in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askNASA.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

The events will also be carried on Ustream at: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl

And here’s a few links with further information on Curiosity, its discoveries and celebration of the anniversary back here on earth.

Mars Science Laboratory: Celebrate Your Curiosity: Anniversary Week Activities
Mars science laboratory
Curiosity’s Views of Gale Crater

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Curiosity requires patience

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, lands today – hopefully (5:31 pm NZ time). But when will we know if the landing has been successful?

Communication between Mars and Earth is hardly simple. It’s not just the time delays involved (currently about 15 min). There’s also rotation of both planets. So communication with Curiosity (if it lands successfully) will involve three satellites in orbit around Mars – the Odyssey Orbiter, the Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA’s Mars Express. (Watch this video to see the alignment of Curiosity, Odyssey and Reconnaiscance during landing). Messages, and particularly data, may need to be stored on board Curiosity or the satellites before transmission to earth.

So we may not even have confirmation of Curiosity’s safe landing for several hours – maybe even several days. This video describes the problems and how they are overcome.

Thanks to Universe Today: When Will We Hear From Curiosity?

Curiosity’s landing site

Here’s a computer-generated view of Mars’ Gale crater as if seen from an aircraft north of the crater. Because of its history, 96-mile wide Gale Crater crater landing site is an ideal region for exploration of the planets history.

It has thick exposed sections of layered sedimentary rocks with a wet history. Joy Crisp, Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said:

“The rock record preserved in those layers holds stories that are billions of years old — stories about whether, when, and for how long Mars might have been habitable.”

For further information go to Image of the Day –NASA’s Gale Crater Mars Landing Site for Tomorrow’s ‘Search-for-Life’ Mission.

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Going for gold – on Mars

Artist’s impression of Curiosity Rover on Mars. Credit: NASA

I know Kiwi readers are going to have a hard time dragging themselves away from TV coverage of the London Olympics – and our current ranking in the medal tables – but it’s worth putting in an effort early Monday evening for the planned landing of Curiosity on Mars. This is scheduled for 5.31 pm New Zealand time – between the reruns of New Zealand Olympic triumphs on afternoon TV and live coverage of the new days activity in the evening.

There will be a number of sites streaming live coverage, but the NASA TV  is a safe bet. When I say live – it will be live coverage of the the scientists and engineers behind the attempt, and their reaction to incoming data. There is a camera on board the probe which will record video but that won’t arrive on earth for a few days. But those scientists and engineers are going to be pretty emotional – it will be a bit like one of those attempts at Olympic gold medals we have followed lately.

I imagine that space enthusiasts around the world will be organising their own parties and venues to follow coverage. NASA coverage will even be broadcast publicly in Times Square, New York. OK, landing is at 1:30 am local time – but they say New York is the city that never sleeps.

My earlier post Seven Minutes of Terror has a video showing the complexity of the landing operation. There is obviously a large chance of failure, because much of the landing technology is new. This will add  to the excitement and tension of the video coverage.  If successful, Curiosity will be largest rover yet to land on Mars. This image gives some idea of its size

Credit: NASA

It’s really a mobile laboratory and  will search for any evidence of past or present habitable environments in the Gale Crater area. Curiosity has mast-mounted instruments for surveying its surroundings and identifying potential sampling targets. Instruments on its robotic arm will enable close-up inspections. Sample of rock, soil and atmosphere will be analysed by instruments inside the rover. Even during its descent sensors on the heat shield will collect information on the atmosphere.

Curiosity’s initial planned programme provides for 1 year of investigations, and may be extended depending on funding and performance. It’s going to be fascinating to see what this rover discovers. Discovery of life, or potential habitats for life, or even evidence of past life will create wide interest. But even negative results will give valuable insight into the similarities and differences  between early Mars and early earth.

Let’s not forget that there is always a large team behind space probes and rovers like this. The photo below showing 2/3rds of the team behind Curiosity give some idea of its size.

Credit Allen Chen: @icancallubetty

And for those who love toys – Mattel Inc., who manufacture a die-cast line of Hot Wheels toy cars, is ready to release the car-size Curiosity as its latest 1:64 scale miniature in September. The Hot Wheels “Mars Rover Curiosity” set is part of Mattel’s assortment of 247 toy cars for 2012.

For posts on the landing and work of the last Mars lander see:
Good luck Phoenix!
Phoenix has landed!
Working on Mars

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